2020: Our Year in Review

2020 – well that’s a year none of us will forget in a hurry!  It was certainly a year of change and unknowns. 

After the fires and floods of late 2019/early 2020, it was just another kick in the teeth to then be greeted by COVID19.  It sure tested our strength and resilience didn’t it.  I’m sure you all know someone who was personally affected by COVID19, whether they contracted it, were tested for it, lost their job or unfortunately lost their life.  It changed our world in so many ways, but in many ways for the better.

Personally we were both very lucky and continued to work through out, actually busier than ever!  Shelly has been working from home since March and George was on and off working from home from March onwards.  Our daughter is a chef and was out of work for a while, we know of people who lost loved ones and we certainly know many friends who endured the test and subsequent ‘wait’!  

Gelly & Charli are absolutely loving having mum and dad working from home and I don’t know what they’ll do if things ever go back to normal and they have to live outside during the day like normal dogs! 

It’s definitely been a tough year for many people and hopefully we have all learned a little from this and one day we will look back on this year with memories of the things we achieved and changed, rather than the struggles and general shit year that it was.  One day we’ll sit back and go …. Yeah, we survived 2020!

Anyway, let’s move on and take a look back over the year that was 2020 ….

2020 Trips

January

Our year started on Fraser Island camping with friends.  We’d headed up just prior to Christmas and had a great couple of days with barely anyone on the island, just the way we like it!  Our friends started arriving from Boxing Day onwards …. as did the crowds!  But we still had a great time and if you know where to head on the island and stay away from the popular tourist spots it never feels that crowded anyway, it’s a huge island.  Anyway, after a great few weeks away we headed home to start the year and all our plans that went along with that …. little did we know at that point what lay ahead for the rest of the year!

Over the Australia Day long weekend we headed down to Currarong on the south coast to spend some time camping with our friends Leah & Brendan.  They’d been working in the Holiday Haven Currarong caravan park and this park had been affected by the bushfires and they had been forced to close, obviously losing a lot of their holiday tourist income, so once they reopened we were more than happy to head down and spend a little time and money in the park and surrounding area.  It’s a great area, one we’ve never spent too much time in, but we will go back again for sure.  We loved spending time with Leah & Brendan and exploring the area, even spending a morning out on the boat with Brendan … too cold for Shelly, but George & Brendan went snorkeling and loved it.  This trip was also Leia’s first time towing the camper and she did great!

January also saw us head back up to Queensland for our mate Stewy’s 40th birthday party.  We left a few days earlier and combined it with a work road trip for George to visit some customers along the way.  The party was a dress up ‘Bogan’ party, which was a bit of fun …. And let’s face it, we really didn’t need to try too hard dressing up for this one!!  George has always referred to Shelly as a bogan (and I think he’s been converted over the years as well!), but it was fun to dress up and enjoy a night with friends.

March

In March, Rob ‘The Duck’ (from The Camping and Off Road Radio Show on 2GB) decided to host a long weekend camping trip down at the Kings Point Retreat in Ulladulla. We’d met him a year or so ago and had a few beers together so we knew he’d put on a great weekend, and he did, and it was great to catch up again.

The idea was to get a group of people and head down to the south coast and spend some money in the area after the devastating bushfires and yep, we spent a bit! About $850 actually, including a new second battery for Leia, shopping and a few meals out.

The highlight of the weekend (for Shelly anyway!) was a concert on the Saturday night featuring the awesome country music singer, Adam Harvey. He is such a great entertainer and such a funny, friendly guy, even George ended up enjoying it! We ended up heading back to camp and continued drinking with The Duck and some of his friends and had a great night with some great people.

December

There were times throughout the year when we wondered if we’d even be able to go away at Christmas. And then with all the border closures the next step was deciding where to go …. we picked SA and all seemed great, until they got an outbreak and said they were locking down! Anyway, luckily it ended up ok, we got our border crossing passes approved and we made it ….. we actually crossed the border at 8.30am and they then closed it at midnight that night! 2 weeks exploring the Eyre Peninsula of the SA coastline and we loved it….. until the Prado died, but that’s another story!

Cancelled trips – So, as it turns out we didn’t have too many holidays during 2020, like everyone else, a lot of our plans were cancelled or postponed. Here’s what we missed out on:-

– Our Bushfire Support Camping Weekend which we were hosting at the Hidden Creek Campsite down in Jervis Bay – hopefully we can still hold this at some point.

– Easter camping trip out west with the dogs

– Big Red Bash in Birdsville – this has been postponed until 2021

– Also back in July or August when things were starting to look a little better we decided we’d plan a few weeks up at Karumba to get away …. Of course that got cancelled when the NSW/QLD borders were shut!

Weekend 4WD Adventures

As much of the year was spent in lockdown we didn’t do anywhere near as much as we normally would, but we did manage to get out a few times with friends for some fun 4WD day trips.

Back in March we took a quick day trip up to Stockton Beach, Leia’s first time on the beach so we were interested to see how she’d go and she was great!

In May we took a drive up to the Watagans, we hadn’t left the house for about 2 months at this point so it was great to get out for a day.

In June, we had our first trip out with friends after lockdown, a quick day run up to Morisset with Adam, Liam, Scott, Jack, Trent & Amber. We’d gone up here back when we first bought Leia and she had the full cage on the back and there was this one hill George just couldn’t get up. So it was time to go back and tackle it again and this time we won …. not sure if it was Shelly’s amazing driving skills or Leia’s less weight and lockers!

A trip up to Mt Sugarloaf with Liam and Trent ended up being quite a muddy day! All three 4WD’s were bogged at various times and the winch and snatch straps definitely got a work out!

In late August the snow started falling in Lithgow so we headed up there to meet Liam & Karen (who had camped up there in the snow the night before!) to have a play. Seeing an area that not that long ago had been destroyed by fire, now covered in snow was quite surreal. We ended up running into our mate, Adam, in the forest as well and the trip ended up getting a little more exciting after an incident with a tree … luckily we had our winch and all recovery gear with us.

September saw us head back up to Stockton Beach for a quick trip, followed by lunch with the kids. It also saw Shelly get bogged for a second time, but luckily we spotted our mate Ian from Great Divide Tours and he came to our rescue … talk about good timing!

We had another trip up to Lithgow in November after being invited out with Jason from APC – we had a great day exploring some great tracks, including the Spanish Steps which gave the Prado a great work out!

Day Trips

It was hard this year to get out and about, so we spent a lot of time exploring areas that either had limited people around or areas close to home. Everyone seems to travel far and wide to sight see but don’t realise the little gems that are in your own backyard. We love exploring our local area and have found some really interesting places, particularly this year. There is no much history surrounding us, you just need to look.

We decided to head out to Lithgow with the dogs for a day of sightseeing, exploring and 4WDing. We spend a lot of time out Lithgow way but on this day we found so many places we’d never visited before. We saw the devastation from the fires (will post more pics of that later), so very sad. The dogs loved being back in the bush and we had two very tired and exhausted puppies that night! We visited Blast Furnace Park, Bracey Lookout, Hassans Walls Lookout, Lake Lyell Recreation Park, Rydal, Lake Wallace, Wallerawang, Portland (including the Silos which were awesome) & Lidsdale State Forest.

During a day trip down to Bowral, not only did we find some great lookouts and hang out with Mary Poppins and the great Sir Don Bradman, we also found the old shale mining town of Joadja. This town now lays in ruins, but we did spend a good couple of hours exploring and taking photos, very interesting place. There is also a distillery onsite so we had a quick tour and taste testing whilst there, well why wouldn’t you! Unfortunately that was also the day someone ran into the back of Leia – luckily there was no damage to our car.

Scheville National Park – Located not far from home we found this place which was so interesting. The land seems to have had many lives over the years, from a cooperative farm to a migrant camp to a military training facility and an agricultural college, among others. Nowadays the public can wander around the Scheyville Camp precinct and see the ruined and restored buildings and learn all about its history.

Glen Davis was an oil-shale mining town and in its heyday it was home to around 2500 people, nowadays it’s basically a ghost town, but what a beautiful area it is. We’d never visited this area before and spent a day driving Glen Davis and the surrounding areas and the landscape is beautiful. We’d like to go back and camp out there and spend some more time exploring.

How many of you knew that the world’s second largest canyon is located right here in NSW? The Capertee Valley is actually 1 km wider than the Grand Canyon, but it’s not as deep. How cool is that! Worth stopping off to check this out if you are in the area.

Another day trip took us down to Robertson, which is where the Australian movie, Babe, was filmed. It’s also home to The Big Potato!, as well as some great waterfalls and walking trails.

We also spent the day at the new Sydney Zoo at Bungarribee with Shelly’s sister Kylie and nephew, Levi. This zoo only opened at the beginning of December 2019 and has a range of exhibits with animals from all over the world. It’s a great zoo, room for expansion, but what is there now is good and it’s really well set out, great size for the little ones.

The historic Putty Road is a rural road of approx 170km in length which runs from western Sydney (near Windsor) to the Hunter Region. It’s now sealed all the way, but it’s quite narrow and winding in sections, but also quite picturesque as you travel through the small country towns dotted along the way.

We ended up in Wollombi and grabbed some lunch before looking around at this quaint little town. This is home to the Wollombi Tavern, which sells the famous Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice. On the way home we stopped in at the Putty Road Truck Drivers Memorial. Unfortunately this road has taken many lives over the years and still does to this day. It’s a popular drive for motorcycles and car clubs (back in the day Shelly spent many a weekend cruising Putty Road with the boys from her old car club!)

Another quick day trip was a drive through the Royal National Park and along the Grand Pacific Drive, followed by barramundi lunch overlooking the beach.

We found another national park near us which had a great picnic and camping area. What makes Cattai National Park so significant is that it is actually made up of land originally granted to First Fleet assistant surgeon Thomas Arndell.

There is so much around us, whether it’s a day in the bush or a couple of hours exploring your surrounding suburbs, you’ll be surprised what you’ll find if you just start looking. We found so many interesting places this year, some with spectacular scenery, some with awesome 4WDing and some with really interesting history.

The best sunrise of the year

This is what makes getting up at 5.00am in the middle of winter totally worth it! Could you get a more amazing start to the day? These were taken on one of Shelly’s weekend trips up the coast with her mate Adam and it was by far one of the best sunrises ever seen. Driving to the lookout it was cloudy and overcast and didn’t look like there was going to be a sunrise at all, but then out of nowhere these colours started to appear. It really was something amazing to see and a great way to start the day.

…… The Day Shelly got bogged

Well, this is a day that turned very muddy, very quickly! A day that our mate Liam will never forget. You see, he’s the one that is always bogged and it’s a running joke with us that Shelly has recovered him in every 4WD we’ve owned ….. well I guess it had to happen one day and he got to return the favour!

The Bushfires

Everyone knows how bad the bushfires were at the beginning of last year/end of 2019. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, animals were killed or injured and so much of our bushland burned through, over such a huge area. The enormity of devastation caused was hard to take in.

In the middle of January we took a drive up to Bilpin in the Hawkesbury/Blue Mountains region of NSW, not far from where we live. This is one of the areas which was ravaged by the bushfires. It was so sad to see just how much of the land had been affected, but more surprisingly how the bush had already started its recovery, already new shoots were appearing on trees and out of the ground. To see just how lucky people were and how many of the properties had been saved was great, the fire brigades obviously worked very hard on property protection in this area, it was so evident as you drove along and everything is black and burnt and then you see a small patch of green grass and trees surrounding someone’s home. It’s definitely confronting to realise how close these people came to losing everything.

We did make a Facebook post at the time about this, but during this drive three things happened which made us feel so happy and thankful and proud to be an Aussie. With all the devastation from these fires and the general crap that goes on in our lives, it’s nice to know that people are there to help and are thankful for those who do.

1) Every place we visited was filled with people getting out there wanting to show their support. It was nice to see every place filled with people and cars.

2) The roadside was scattered with signs of thanks to the Rural Fire Service. So many signs on the side of the road, taped to telegraph poles or hung outside peoples houses. It’s heartwarming to know how grateful this little community is that the RFS was there to support them.

3) Finally, and probably best of all ….. we were in line in one of the shops to purchase our yummy homemade apple pie when an older guy was being served in front. He handed over his money to pay and the cashier handed it back to him. The customer said ‘oh you don’t need to give it all back to me’ and the cashier responded with ‘yes we do mate, thank you’. Yep, the customer was one of their local RFS volunteers.

Then in March we visited Lake Conjola, another small town which the fire ripped through. About 89 homes were lost in Lake Conjola alone. It’s scary driving in and seeing where the fire was and how much was destroyed. With only one way in and out of the town, you can see just how lucky these guys were to not lose more than just their houses.

Not long after the fires we took a drive up to Lithgow and were amazed at just how much destruction there had been. The photos below are of the Zig-Zag railway at Clarence where we always meet and start our days when 4WDing out there. The toilet block had gone, the sleepers were burnt, so much had been burnt out, you could only imagine what the bush further in looked like. The State Forest was still closed at the time (not that it stopped people going in there) so we didn’t head in on this visit.

The Zig Zag Railway itself had been closed since it was basically wiped out in the bushfires of late 2013, they were nearly ready to reopen, when once again fires came through. Luckily firefighters were able to protect the historic railway station building and they didn’t suffer anywhere near as much damage this time.

As we traveled through those areas affected by the fires you realise how lucky people were and how brave our fire fighters are. Nothing even came close to preparing us for what we were going to see, there was bush burnt for as far as you could see. Places we visit regularly were destroyed and looked totally different. The feeling of being there in the middle of nothing but burnt trees was really strange, in fact it was kind of eerie. There were no birds or animals around, no sound at all, except for the odd creaking or cracking of the trees. You could still smell a hint of smoke in the air and everything you touched covered you in ash, a very strange feeling indeed.

The photos above were taken at the Lost City in Lithgow. The top photo was taken on a visit there 2 years ago, the bottom photo was taken after the bushfires ravaged this whole area.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

Leia

One of the most exciting things to happen in 2020 is that Leia finally got a working horn! She hasn’t had one since we purchased her and Shelly could not be happier to have a horn again!

She also got a new battery, new alternator, some rust on the roof fixed, new roof moulds and window belt moulding, new suspension, Provent Catch Can, pink grip handles, new black flares and a new exhaust (Shelly’s birthday present from George!).

150 Series Prado

Just before our Christmas trip we had new Dick Cepek Extreme Country tyres fitted on to the Prado. We previously had these and loved them so it was a no brainer to replace with new ones.

The Prado also got some new suspension ….. Bilstein shocks and raised King Springs, lower rear control arm replacements and diff drop kit, all designed to give us even more flex than the normal 2 inch lift.

Cub Camper

When we replaced the tyres on the Prado, the old tyres that came off still had a little life left in them so these were transferred to the camper.

A Year of Owing Leia

Back in May we posted a video about all the mods we’d done to Leia in the previous 12 months since we’d owned her. She’s certainly come a long way in since we purchased her and a lot of time and money has been spent on building her up to what she is today.

We are still loving our little Leia – yes even George has grown to love her! He affectionately calls her ‘the death trap’ and ‘the money pit’, but we know he loves her!

She towed the camper down south and on another trip she carried the swag and gazebo on her ‘useless short tray’ as George says!

This whole build process has been Shelly’s baby, every decision has been made by Shelly and implemented by George! At the end of the day we both own both 4WD’s, but when we purchased Leia, this was Shelly’s car to build the way she wanted.

Gelly giving mummy’s car her stamp of approval!

Off The Track 4×4 updates

Considering we were locked down for a good part of the year and didn’t really get out and about a much as we would have liked, we still had a busy year.

Giveaways

We had quite a few giveaways, including our ever popular Pegless Clothesline giveaway, who would have known that a clothesline would have been so popular! And we can’t forget our sticker giveaway when we said we were offering 10 and ended up giving in and sending out 40 or so! We love that you guys love us that much that you want stickers, and we love seeing the pics of them on your vehicles!

And lastly our mega Christmas Giveaway, where a major prize pack worth over $800 went to one lucky winner. We are truly grateful for all of our sponsors and supporters for taking part in that, we love sharing your products and businesses and are thankful that you were happy to contribute to the giveaway. After the year we’ve all had, particularly small businesses, we appreciate how hard it’s been, yet you all still jumped in to be part of the giveaway, you guys rock!

Hugh thanks to these guys who are always the first to jump in and get involved …. Cost Effective Maintenance, Auto Parts Co, Shower Ezy, Glass on the Grass, Get A Grip AU, Love your Travels.

New Camp Cooking group

Back in April we started up a Camp Cooking Ideas & Tips Facebook group and this has really taken off, with over 5000 members. We jointly run this group with our mates from Track 2 Surf 4×4 & Eastcoastexplorers4x4 and you’ll find recipes and inspiration for your camp cooking, as well as share your creations and ask questions.

YouTube

We did get a few videos up on YouTube throughout the year, including our new intro video to tell you what we are all about, we were quite happy with the end result of this video.

Track to Nature …. Essential Oils

This year we also started Track to Nature Essential Oils This is something that has become a big part of our lives and we are loving it. If you are interested to see how doTERRA Essential Oils can fit into your life (particularly your camping, travel & outdoor life), feel free to contact us to discuss – or join our Facebook group

For a few years now we’ve been using these oils very minimally in our lives (Shelly for her sinus, generally for pain and insect repellent), but we are now tending to turn to the oils in the first instance for everything … cooking, health and well-being, bug sprays and even on the dogs. It’s all about being open minded and accepting that there could be a more natural way. How essential oils can work for you or how you may wish to adapt them into your life will be different for every single person, it’s a very personal choice. The one thing we can tell you is, you won’t regret making that choice.

Our Sponsors and Supporters

Once again we can’t thank our Sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance, enough for their support over the past year. They supply us with all their goodies to keep both Leia and the Prado running in tip top shape, and we can’t recommend their prodcuts highly enough.

During our trip up to Brisbane earlier in the year we made a quick detour to visit the boys at CEM. We’d been speaking over the phone, Facebook and email for years, but this was the first time we’d actually met in person! We had a few beers, a chat and a look around the workshop … it was so great to finally meet in person.

Don’t forget if you use code “4X4OTT” you get a 10% discount off all Cost Effective Maintenance items (excluding value packs).


Celebrations

Another year of 40th birthday parties …… We started the year off with our mate Jamie turning 40th and celebrating with drinks, and what turned into a mini pub crawl down at The Rocks in Sydney. George was away working that weekend so unfortunately missed it, but Shelly had fun!

Next up we had Stewy’s 40th ‘bogan party’ up in Queensland which was a lot of fun to get dressed up and catch up with everyone.

Lastly our friend Danny in Queensland turned 40, but due to Covid we haven’t been able to get up and see them all year.

Of course we can’t forget Shelly’s cousin giving birth to twin baby girls, so exciting to have more babies in the family! Congratulations to Mel & Matt and of course the new big sister, Chloé.

The not so good stuff ….

One of Shelly’s cousins (mum’s cousin) passed away in October. Although we didn’t see each other all that often, it was still a shock. Always sad to lose a family member.

Shelly sprained her ankle at the end of October and wasn’t very mobile for a few weeks – luckily she was working from home! Let’s just make it known that George did initially laugh when she fell over and only stopped once he realised she couldn’t get up off the ground! He did make up for it by playing Nurse George for the following days and weeks!

Our good friends, Emma, Jono & Aidan (and Milo the dog!) left us in December and moved to Queensland. We were so sad to see them go, but excited for their new adventure that lays ahead. They have purchased a beautiful property near the small country town of Childers and we can’t wait to head up there and visit them.

December also saw one of Shelly’s longtime work colleagues leave. After being close friends and working together for the past 13 or so years, it was sad to see him leave and work certainly won’t be the same without him.

How we spent Christmas

As we were heading to South Australia we held ‘family Christmas’ with Shelly’s family on 5th December with everyone heading to our house for Christmas lunch and presents, including Gucci and puppy Roxi …. yep, 4 dogs and a 4 year old child is very chaotic!!

The next day we headed to George’s sisters house to celebrate Christmas with George’s side of the family.

Christmas Day was a quiet one with just the two of us relaxing at camp and feasting on a fresh cooked seafood lunch and Nutella pizza for dessert. Who said you can’t eat well when camping! Throw in a few cocktails and beers and evening games with our camping neighbours and we had a pretty good day.

What’s planned for 2021?

With so many of our plans cancelled in 2020, we are making up for it in 2021!  But first up we need the Prado up and running and that and the camper back home with us, hopefully things will sort themselves out soon.

2021 is a big one for many reasons, first one being that George turns the big 5-0! He wanted to do something special to celebrate this so we have booked onto one of Great Divide Tours tag-a-long trips to Arnhem Land. This is a place we’ve both wanted to visit for a long time and always said that if we were to do another big tag-a-long trip it would be this one as Vic can gain access to so many areas that we couldn’t if we went by ourselves. So come August we will be heading off north to Arnhem Land for a month!

In July we have the 2020 rescheduled Big Red Bash to attend.  For those who don’t know, this is the world’s most remote music festival, held at the base of Big Red (the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert) in Birdsville, QLD.  This had been something we’d wanted to do for years and finally attended our first BRB in 2019 … they always say once you go you will be back for sure and they were right … we booked tickets for the following year!  Well, like everything else BRB2020 was cancelled, but all tickets carried over to 2021, with the same amazing line-up.

Artists for 2021 are Paul Kelly, Ian Moss, Tim Finn, John Williamson, Kate Ceberano, Shannon Noll, Dragon, The Radiators, Mi Sex, Wendy Matthews, Thirsty Merc, Marc Gable, Glenn Shorrock, Bjorn Again, Steve Balbi, Chocolate Starfish, Ross Wilson, Vika & Linda Bull, Caitlin Shadbolt.


Of course we would like to thank all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year.  We know it’s been a difficult year and we know we didn’t have too many exciting adventures to post about, but we hope you still enjoyed our content. Thanks to everyone for following our adventures and interacting with us, we love sharing and we love hearing your stories as well.

If anyone sees us out and about make sure you come over and say hi, we love meeting new people and sharing stories. Don’t forget, if you follow us on our socials, please LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE. We love what we do and we share our experiences with everyone in the hope to educate others and inspire them to also follow their dreams and get out there and explore.

As we reflect on this difficult year, we are grateful for our ability to travel, thankful for the love and friendship of our family and friends and very much appreciative of all of our followers who support us and seem to love what we do. It’s a privilege to be able to travel this amazing country of ours and whilst we know not everyone is lucky enough to do what we do, we are glad we can share it with others and give you a little taste of what is out there.

Wishing you all a very happy and safe New Year. Hope 2021 is a better year for many, let’s look forward to new adventures and making new memories.

We have a new name!

Ok so just a quick post to let you all know that we have a new name! We are now known as ⬇️

But don’t worry, nothing else has changed, we are still the same old George and Shelly and we will still be sharing all our stories and photos of our life and travels as we always have.

Thanks to all of our family, friends and followers for your support and encouragement with all of our adventures. We love sharing our stories with you and if we inspire others to get out there and travel, then we have done our job!

2018: Our Year in Review

What another busy year that was and time just flew by didn’t it. This year was a year of trying to get out more, more 4WDing days, more weekends away and more quality time with family and friends.

We started 2018 surrounded by friends at the Urunga Waters Caravan Park. This was a really fun week away with a great group friends …. and a few others who popped in at random times throughout the week! Even the rain and mud around camp didn’t dampen our spirits!

Fast forward 12 months and as we write this we are sitting at camp in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Anyone who’s been following our blog or photos on social media will have seen that we spent an amazing 2 days camped in the Coffin Bay National Park, WOW, words can’t explain how spectacular this place is! We then moved a little further north to the Flinders Ranges where we are camped in Wilpena Pound and spending time exploring this marvelous area. We have visited before, but never for an extended period and we are absolutely loving it.

Thank you to all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year.  Thanks for following our adventures and interacting with us, we even personally met some of our followers this year which was great and we also gained a few new camping friends! If anyone sees us out and about make sure you come over and say hi, we love meeting new people and sharing stories.

Now let’s take a look back on the year that was 2018 …..


2018 Trips

January

We spent a week with friends in Urunga, camping at the Urunga Waters Caravan Park. This is a great little park right on the water. It’s an older style park, but it has everything we need, it’s quiet and it’s conveniently located. Urunga is just outside of Coffs Harbour on the NSW mid north coast, it’s great for 4WDing, beaches and of course all the tourist activities, most famously the Big Banana!

January also saw us head away for the Australia Day long weekend. We camped at Percy’s Place in Pitt Town, a whole 29km from home! This place is great and you certainly didn’t feel like you were that close to home. Situated right on the banks of the Hawkesbury River it was the perfect setting for a hot long weekend …. We spent a lot of time in that river! This was also the first trip we decided to take Gelly and Charli away camping with us. We won’t dwell on the fact that our dogs are naughty, but let’s just say they didn’t last too long and luckily we were close to home as they were both taken home midway through the second day! In the time that they were there though they loved it and Gelly spent a lot of her time in the river too!

February

Our 5 year wedding anniversary was celebrated by 5 day trip to Tasmania. It was the first visit to Tasmania for both of us. Did we enjoy it? YES it was amazing and we can’t wait to go back there again, hopefully next time with the 4WD and camper trailer for a much longer visit.

We visited Hobart, Mount Wellington, Port Arthur, Bicheno, Launceston and the famous Salamanca Markets.  We had a private encounter with a baby Tasmanian devil at Cradle Mountain (so adorable) and we learned all about seahorses, platypus and echidnas at Seahorse World and Platypus House.  We visited the Beaconsfield Mine where tragedy struck in 2006 and we explored the beautiful historic Richmond, which is home to the oldest bridge in Australia.   Tasmania is so full of history and we learned a lot and saw some beautiful areas.

We certainly managed to pack a lot into a short period of time as you’ll see from the map below.

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We even detoured so that we could visit ‘Georgetown’!

July

This was our big trip of the year, it was when we made the trek back up to Cape York, the tip of Australia. We’d first completed this trip in 2013 as part of our 2 month honeymoon, but we had friends who wanted to go so we agreed to lead a trip. We had 6 vehicles and 15 people and we all had an absolute ball. I think it gave some of our friends an appreciation and understanding of why we love what we do. It was their first real remote trip and it was great to be able to share it with them all. Not only did we visit the Northern Most Point of mainland Australia, we had a beer in the northern most pub on the mainland, we swam under waterfalls, we saw crocodiles, we played with a dingo (he was very friendly!) and we had plenty of laughs and memorable moments.

October

2018 marked the 50th anniversary of the Cub Campers brand and to celebrate Cub Campers invited all Cub owners to a 50th Anniversary Jamboree held at Del Rio Riverside Resort at Wisemans Ferry. We didn’t know anyone who was going, but thought it would be a good long weekend away so ‘why not’. As it turned out, we had a great weekend and met some people who we will definitely keep in touch with and catch up with again …. In fact we’ve since been camping with one of the families again already! Cub put on a great weekend with goodie bags, talks and activities, a gala dinner and drinks and a BBQ breakfast on the last morning.

The whole Cub family was there, along with some of the employees from their North Rocks factory.  it was great to meet and have a chat with Roger Fagan, the founder of Cub Campers, and hear his stories of how it all began and the obstacles that have stood in their way over the years.

November

We met a family at the Cub Campers jamboree and arranged to catch up again and go camping, so this saw us head up to Soldiers Point for a weekend.  We all had a lot of fun with plenty of drinks and plenty of laughs. The others in the group were great as well and I think everyone had a good weekend.

December

Shelly had wanted to go to the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Light Spectacular for years and finally George gave in! We made a weekend of it and camped in the Hunter Valley and spent Saturday visiting the various wineries, cheese and chocolate shops and Shelly’s favourite, Pukara Estate.  We even tried Bacon Beer at one of the breweries!  Later that night we were meant to meet up with friends to visit the lights, but as it turned out a storm came through and they closed the gardens and cancelled the lights 🙁  So unfortunately we didn’t get to see the lights, but we did have a good weekend and spent way to much money!  We will now revisit in January to see the lights, with hopefully better weather next time.


Filming for ‘Cub Stories’.

In last year’s ‘Year In Review’ we mentioned that we had been approached by Cub Campers to see if we’d like to be part of their ‘Cub Stories’ web series.  We were already heading away to Percy’s Place at Pitt Town for a long weekend camping trip with some friends over Australia Day so we arranged to meet up with Fiona from Cub Campers to film our story.

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We met Fiona at Percy’s Place early and she filmed us driving in, setting up the camper and then she interviewed us both as well. The day was so incredibly hot, we had our friends heckling from the sidelines and we had two whingeing dogs to deal with, but it was a lot of fun. We really weren’t sure what to expect, but Fiona made everything so easy and fun and we were both happy with the end result, so it was all worthwhile! Click here to check it out.


Celebrations

Little Levi turned 2 in March and we had a lunch with family and friend’s at his house. It’s been great watching Levi grow from a baby into a little boy. It’s been a big year for him, he is starting to talk a lot more, he’s started soccer, he’s changed day care centres and he got his first bike.

In April we attended the wedding of Shelly’s cousin, Mel and her husband, Matt. This was a beautiful day, with the ceremony also incorporating a christening for their daughter Chloe. The reception was held in Cockle Bay so we treated ourselves to a night away at the Hyatt Regency.

The next morning to celebrate our brother in laws birthday we went to the fish markets for a seafood breakfast …. seemed fairly strange at first but this place is packed early in the morning and apparently a seafood platter at 9am is perfectly acceptable!

October 31st was not only Halloween, but it was also the 21st birthday of George’s son, Tre. They certainly aren’t kids anymore, Tre is 21 and Min is 23!

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October was also a big month for Shelly’s dad, Johnny, as he turned the big 80. We celebrated at our local tavern with a lunch for all the family and friends and it was a great day catching up with everyone.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

We are always spending money on these vehicles, they are money pits!

90 Series Prado

Something Shelly has wanted for a long time was a black bull bar on the old Prado. Last year we purchased some Raptor paint with the intention of painting the bar on the 150 ….. As it turned out we just bought all new bar work for that Prado instead! So while we were off on holidays at Cape York, the old Prado took a holiday with our mechanic. We came back to a new windscreen and pretty black bullbar and side steps and we absolutely love it, it changes the whole look of the 4WD.

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During the year, one night while parked out the front of our house, our aerial and base got stolen off the Prado.  This was Shelly’s chance to get the pink aerial she’s been wanting!  She has gradually been adding her little touches of ‘pink’ to this 4WD and below are the latest!  George said he’s never driving this 4WD again!

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After painting the bar, the old rusty standard steel rims needed to go, so we got some new black wheels to fit with the theme ….. a set of 16×8 Sunraysia steel wheels from Dynamic Wheel Co.

150 Series Prado

The 150 Series Prado was also given new wheels and tyres – 17×9 Mickey Thompson Deegan Pro 2 wrapped in Dick Cepek Extreme Country 265/70×17.

These were tested out on our trip to Cape York and we were very happy with them.  One of our other vehicles also fitted them before leaving and they too were happy, these are an extremely good offroad tyre.

Like the old Prado, this one also got a new windscreen (installed the day before leaving for Cape York …. nothing like being prepared!).  An unexpected expense during our Cape York trip was a new Starter Motor, a detour back to Townsville and this was sorted quickly, (thanks Alect Auto Electrical) and later in the year a new alternator.  Boy these vehicles are expensive!

Both vehicles also got their new Off The Track stickers.

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Jobs

Last year we mentioned that George had left Bridgestone and started a new job …. Well as it turns out that wasn’t the job for George and he soon left and picked up his new job which he absolutely loves.  He’s now an Account Manager with Dynamic Wheel Co, covering NSW and ACT. This is the absolute perfect job for George as he is specializing in alloy and steel wheels predominantly for the 4WD market, could you get a more perfect job for a guy like George!.

Shelly is still at Capital Results, there have been a few changes over time but it’s basically been over 20 years in this job now!  She’s also still running her Scentsy business, Awaken The Scent. If you’re interested, we can deliver Australia-wide so check out the website and see if you’d like to order anything. Our whole house is filled with Scentsy products and aromas, even George is a huge Scentsy lover!


George’s outback trip

Now, it’s no wonder George loves his new job so much, September saw him head off with 5 of his workmates on a mini outback trip, disguised as a ‘sales conference’! George flew to Brisbane and met up with the others, loaded themselves into two vehicles and hit the road, first stop Thargomindah. Over the next few days they visited Innamincka, Burke’s grave, Cameron’s Corner and Tibooburra, before finally finishing up in Broken Hill.


Jungle surfing

After our Cape York trip we spent an extra day in Cape Tribulation so that we could go Jungle Surfing!   What a great experience this was to fly through the Daintree Rainforest on zip lines.  The platforms are up to 16 meters high and you can reach speeds of up to 45km/hour as you fly through the trees  ….. we even flew upside down on one of the sections!  The views were amazing, looking over the jungle canopy and across the Great Barrier Reef, such a fun way to spend a morning.


Paronella Park

Jose Paronella was a man who had a dream, a man who worked hard to make that dream become a reality and what an amazing story this is.  In 1929 Jose purchased 13 acres of scrub along Mena Creek and set about creating this special place.  Jose lived here with his family, but also opened it up to the public so that they could all enjoy the spectacular place aswell.  Jose built the whole park by hand, including hand planting over 7000 trees.  This was also home to a Hydro Electric generating plant which supplied power to the whole park, the earliest in North Queensland.

This had been on our list of places to visit and we can highly recommend it.  The entry price includes overnight camping fees so you can explore at your leisure.  Once we arrived Shelly set off on foot to explore the area and take some photographs while George set up camp!  Later that night we went on one of their guided tours (also included in the entry price) and learned a little more about the history of Paronella Park.  The current owners of the park even came out to speak with the group after the walk and explained a little about the history and their experiences and involvement since purchasing the park.  This is one really well run tourist attraction and you can see why they win so many awards.  This one should definitely be on your list of places to visit.


Pergola

After years of having the ugly triple car port in the yard we finally installed a new pergola earlier this year and we love it ….. now to just work on the rest of the yard!  Anyone got any ideas on how to have a nice backyard AND an American Staffy ……. our house would look amazing if we didn’t own Charli!  In case you are wondering why the camper trailer is hidden behind temporary fencing …. ask Charli!


RIP Bob

Shelly’s little cockatiel Bob died earlier this year.  Bob was nearly 18 years old and although Shelly has always had birds and aviaries, Bob was always the favourite.  Even Shelly’s sister loved Bob and she’s scared of birds!  Bob lived in 3 separate houses with Shelly over the course of his life and he was always a big part of the family.

Bob lived in our kitchen and often came out to play.   He was a strange little bird who much preferred to walk than fly and he absolutely loved rice bubbles, they were his favourite!  I remember one time when we were living in a rental property we arrived home to find the cage open and Bob gone, we walked around the house calling his name and followed the slight chirps we heard – we eventually found him at the other end of the house in the bedroom, hiding behind a set of drawers shaking!


How we spent Christmas 

Christmas Eve we had lunch at our house for Shelly’s side of the family. A big lunch, lots of presents, a few drinks and all your family, what better way to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas Day we headed to George’s sisters house to celebrate with George’s side of the family.  Again, plenty of presents and food and great company.


What’s planned for 2019?

Our big plans for 2019 are to visit the Big Red Bash!  Finally we are going! ….. Shelly’s been pestering George to do this since it first started! Another one of our bucket list items is going to be ticked off.  This 3 day concert is the most remote concert in the world, taking place outdoors in the Simpson Desert, just out from Birdsville at ‘Big Red’, the highest sand dune in the Simpson Desert.  We have the tickets and we are going!  Headline artists for next year are MIDNIGHT OIL, THE LIVING END and KASEY CHAMBERS, with many others including Richard Clapton, 1927, Wendy Matthews, Chocolate Starfish and The Chantoozies.  If anyone wants to join us on this trip, let us know!

Other than that, we will be taking a few weekend or short trips again and plan on spending a lot more time out 4WDing and exploring.


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As we look back and reflect on this past year, we are thankful for the love and friendship of our family and friends. We have had quite a few of you go through some hard times this year and it makes you realise more than ever that we only have one life and you need to make the most of that.  Do what makes you happy, enjoy every day like it’s your last. Cherish the moments you share with others, make memories wherever you go and live a life with no regrets. You are only given one chance at life so make sure it’s a great one 💕

Wishing you all a very happy, safe and adventure filled 2019. Get out there and experience some of the magical places that surround you. Bring on 2019!


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